They say, “Never Forget” as if we would. As if we could. As if we could erase the images imprinted in our memories, or ignore the overwhelming feeling that somehow we failed those victims we were supposed to protect.
The courses of our lives were suddenly and irrevocably altered in the horrible, breathless seconds after the second plane hit the tower. Suddenly, we looked at the world through clearer, less innocent, and infinitely sadder eyes.
Kids who were in high school in 2001 are in their thirties today. Some of them served in uniform in countries they had barely been aware of – if they had heard of them at all – on September 10. Some of them still carry the visible and invisible scars that will remain with them forever. Even today, I talked with a young man who had been in uniform and stationed in Washington, D.C. on September 11. In the days following the attacks, he was one of the many servicemen and servicewomen who cleaned up the debris. He described how he could feel the impact of the crash, how the smell of jet fuel wafted in the air, and how he still struggles with the bottomless heartbreak of cleaning up the effects of the men and women who were ripped away from their unsuspecting families. He dreads September 11 each year because the ghosts come back.
Forget? We will never forget. Because we can’t.